The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed serious concerns over the one-month ban on access to several social media websites and messaging apps in the disputed Kashmir valley.
In a statement issued by IFJ, the world’s largest organisation of journalists demanded that the ban order be immediately withdrawn and citizens’ rights to information and communication are respected.
The IFJ said, “The internet shutdown is a form of censorship and against the fundamental rights of people to freedom of opinion and expression.”
Authorities in the valley, this week, ordered internet service providers to block social media services for at least a month.
The move followed an upsurge in violence in the region, where authorities claim social media is being used to mobilise stone-throwing protesters behind civilian attacks on Indian forces.
The IFJ noted that Kashmir has witnessed as many as 14 internet shutdowns since 2016 and four of them in April 2017, making India the leading country in the world in virtual curfews.
“The IFJ is seriously concerned by the frequent shutdowns of internet services in Kashmir and the impact of the shutdowns on media, journalists and people,” added the statement.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Young Kashmiris have also used their mobile phones to record videos of killings and other rights abuses by government forces to upload on YouTube.
One video, circulated online this month, depicted a Kashmiri man tied to the front of an army jeep, apparently as a human shield against stone-throwing protesters.
“The IFJ urges the Indian authorities to immediately withdraw the social media ban orders and ensure that the internet is not shut down in future,” the statement concluded.